- Tips and Tricks
Tool Rolls: It's All In The Filling
We stock some quite brilliant motorcycle tool rolls at The Cafe Racer, and they make for perfect finishing touches on any custom or shed build. Beyond that though, they are as practical as they are aesthetically pleasing (particularly when the factory tool set compartment has been culled from your bike). So, what do we actually use them for?
“Tools?”, I hear you cry. Well yes, but there’s a fine art to choosing which tools you carry day-to-day and which are best left at home.
There's no need to lug around a full mechanic's tool box, but no matter how strict you are with preventative maintenance we recommend carrying these items as a bare minimum and a good tool roll will help you do it. The scrolling design enables easy stashing on most frames, with a surprising amount of storage space. The best motorcycle tool rolls will feature a range of pocket and slot sizes for more efficient packing than a basic tool bag or pouch.
The old reliable: while it is the answer to so many problems, it can be easy to get this part wrong. Finding a small, solid adjustable is the key here, and if at all possible it is worth spending a little extra on a high quality example – something that won’t fold under pressure, leaving you to wallow in regret while you wait for roadside assistance.
Find yourself a set of small needle nose pliers that aren’t so big that you can’t reach into any tight spaces. The staple of any self-respecting bodger, nine times out of then they can get the job done when you don’t have the ‘correct’ tool to hand. Plus they’re ideal for those occasions where you need to get creative bending components to your will.
Now this is where it really pays to be familiar with your machine. Why carry a phillips head screwdriver about if your bike has no phillips head fittings? Work out what you’ll need, and be realistic – you probably don’t need to carry an Allen key size that you’ll can only use with the tank fully removed (unless you like to go that deep at the roadside in the pouring rain). It’s also worth remembering that a flat-head screwdriver can come in useful as a general levering device, and a good quality multi-head system can save space.
Puncture repair kit
Modern tubeless tyre systems can be (temporarily) repaired at the roadside pretty easily. There are plenty of tubeless repair kits out there, supplying you with CO2 canisters and various plugs/mushrooms and insertion tools. If you’re on a retro or vintage bike - anything with spoked wheels - the chances are you’ll be running tubes though. In these cases carry tyre levers, CO2 and patches at the very least. For longer trips or touring, it’s worth carrying a spare tube too.
These days, not all bikes run bulbs and fuses, but if yours does the fuse box should be your first port of call in the event of an unplanned shutdown. Getting going again can be as simple as swapping out the broken fuse. Be sure to find the cause once you get home though!
If you can’t attach something back in the way that the manufacturer intended then a handful of cable ties could at least get you to a destination where you can carry out any more substantial work. When the answers to your potential problem is this small and light, why wouldn’t you carry them?
OK, maybe luxuries is the wrong title, but these are the other items that we would be tempted to fit in our tool roll where possible (or when making a longer trip).
In accordance with Murphy’s law, you’re sure to break down at the most inconvenient time possible, and a decent flashlight makes all the difference when it comes to nocturnal repair, not to mention being invaluable when it comes to locating dropped bolts in a crevice behind the engine at any time of day. Lightweight and compact LED head torches are a great idea in order to keep both hands free to work on your bike. Modern pen lights can be very powerful too, and much easier to hold in your mouth than your phone.
You’ll only need something small, and preferably legal in your local area. A decent knife will make short work of zip ties and save your teeth if you need to get involved with the electrics. If possible, choose one where the blade can double up as a spare tool if needed.
No, not a mixtape for your rescue ride home – we do, of course, refer to the variety of adhesive tapes that are infinitely useful. Insulation tape can sometimes be all you need to rig up an emergency electrical circuit. Duct/gaffer tape famously fixes everything if you use enough of it, but in particular can be used to boot a ripped tyre. Save space by wrapping it around your CO2 canister.
Spark plugs and spanner
A spark plug spanner does take up a fair amount of space, so it’s worth considering how necessary this one is. I, for example, cannot easily access my spark plugs so if they go I’m on the phone to roadside assistance. If you’ve got an old bike that has a habit of flooding though, a spare plug can get you out of trouble easily.
Emergency tyre sealant
They take up a fair bit of space but if you’ve got it, those seal-and-inflate canisters can save battling with tyre plugs or stubborn beads.
This one is certainly a luxury but the peace of mind is pretty comforting, particularly to anyone who’s ever owned an Enfield. There is a whole host of differing levels of cover available so do your research, and consider your usual routes in case there’s a garage you’d rather not be left at.
Sometimes that breakdown cover isn’t so nearby...